52 Reasons to Hate My Father

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by Jessica Brody
Teen Fiction
Farrar, Straus, & Giroux Books for Young Readers

The Crash Without the Burn

My father is going to kill me.

Actually, on second thought, he probably doesn’t have time to kill me. But he is going to send someone to do it for him. He’s really good at that. Sending people. He’s done it for every major event in my life. First day of school, first date, sweet sixteen party, birthdays, dance recitals, even my high school graduation last week. All of them faithfully attended and video documented by one of my father’s minions. He’s got loads of them. So many I can hardly remember any of their names anymore. But without fail, anytime something significant happens, one of them always manages to show up in my father’s place to perform the requisite “parental duty.” In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he sent someone to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day. Although I’m sure his publicity team would never allow him to miss out on such a great opportunity for positive media exposure.

This, on the other hand, falls into that other category of media exposure. The kind that makes my father, his company, and everyone associated with our family look bad. The kind that is quickly hushed up and excused by cleverly concocted scapegoats and promises of rehab. Not that I’ll ever go. Not that I’ve ever gone. But it’s the thought that makes people feel better—or more importantly—that makes the tabloids shift their focus. Because once you’re “shipped off to rehab” the story is over. In the media’s eyes, you’re as good as cured.

Well, until you screw up again.

Until you do something like this.

I’m convinced my father has spies working all over the world. They’ve infiltrated national and foreign governments, they’ve weaseled their way into law enforcement offices, they’ve set up shop in the streets. They’re like elves. Santa’s helpers. Magically stealing through the night, doing his bidding, protecting the company name. The family name. Because really, there’s no other explanation for how fast things happen. How quickly they’re able to get to the site of the “disturbance.” Like tonight, for instance. My father has “people” on the scene even before all the emergency vehicles have arrived. Dressed smartly in their dark suits and designer shoes, even though it’s three o’clock in the morning. As if they simply go to bed that way.

Magic elves, I tell you.

Although following that analogy would mean my father would have to be Santa Claus. And trust me, besides the part about being elusive, never seen, and only staying in your living room for a total of two minutes before disappearing into the night, he’s definitely NO Santa Claus.

The first thing they do when they arrive is tell me not to speak. Then I’m ushered away from the limelight and flashes of paparazzi bulbs and hastily stowed inside a black limousine with windows tinted so darkly I can barely see out. There’s a woman seated across from me. She speaks with a diluted French accent, expertly fielding a flutter of phone calls and e-mails with a cell phone in both hands. She pauses her current conversation long enough to assure me that everything is being taken care of.

But I don’t need to be assured. Everything is always taken care of. When my father’s name is involved, charges are mysteriously dropped, law uits are inexplicably settled out of court, and angry business owners threatening revenge are suddenly sending Christmas cards with photos of their family on a two week cruise in the Greek isles.

I’m never quite sure how it’s done but you can be sure money changes hands. Lots and lots of money. Probably in the form of large, unmarked bills. Contracts are most likely signed, threats are almost certainly made, and secrets are most definitely leveraged.

It’s the mafia without the strip clubs and the cheap New York accents. And instead of guns and cement shoes, all the members have Blackberrys and Harvard MBAs.

It’s no wonder that my father has entire law offices working exclusively for him.

Through the darkly tinted glass I can just make out the arrival of two more news vans. The woman sitting across from me notices them too and hurriedly presses a single button on one of her phones before bringing it to her ear.

“Are we clear?” There’s a moment of silence as she waits for a response. “Tell them she has no comment.” And then into the other phone, “Good, we’re leaving.”

With a chilling sharpness, she clicks off both phones, taps on the glass behind her with the backside of her knuckles, and like a fluid, well-oiled machine that has been performing this same routine thousands of times, for hundreds of years, the message is communicated and the car is off.

Available July 2012!

52 Reasons to Hate My Father